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The Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu, the Parliament of Estonia Hannes Hanso, who met with his colleagues from the Nordic and Baltic parliaments on Svalbard, said that the cooperation and the harmonisation of positions between similar-minded countries are of great importance in the present critical times.

Speaking of the situation in Russia and Ukraine, Hanso noted that the strength of Europe is in its unity. “If we have differences of opinion between ourselves, Russia may take advantage of it,” Hanso said.

In Hanso’s opinion, it is also very important that the messages given to Ukraine and other partner countries at the Eastern partnership Summit in Riga in May would be convincing and encouraged the continuing of reforms. “The EU states can help Ukraine in carrying out economic and legal reforms, and the Government of Ukraine in its turn has to curb corruption,” Hanso said.  “One of the problems that need solution is connected with the visa-free regime for Ukraine and other Eastern Partnership countries.”

At the two-day meeting of the chairmen of the foreign affairs committees of the parliaments of the Nordic Countries and Baltic States on Svalbard, various issues connected with the Arctic were also discussed. It was emphasised that the region must not become a site of conflict of political interests.

In recent times, Asian countries have shown great interest in the Arctic. Their main interest is the shortening of the sea route between Asia and Europe through the Arctic Sea. For example, South Korea and Singapore have made test voyages for the carriage of goods. At the same time with the developing of carriage of goods, it is also important to increase life saving capacity.

Estonia’s interest in the Arctic has so far been modest, but Estonia is considering to apply for observer status in the Arctic Council. Estonia’s main interests in the Arctic are connected with research.

Hanso said that in the discussion of the problem of radicalised foreign fighters from the Nordic Countries and Baltic States, the participants of the meeting pointed out that legislation needs to be adapted to the new situation and the preventive work to avoid radicalisation is the new priority of countries.

While foreign fighters from the Nordic Countries amount to hundreds, the Baltic States have so far been dealing with a few persons. Hanso said that, on the basis of their experience, the Nordic Countries recommend to focus on prevention and cooperation with the families of foreign fighters. Hanso stressed that no activities are targeted against Islam, but against terrorism.  “Many legal issues have emerged in connection with the foreign fighters,” Hanso said. One of them is the problem of collecting evidence.

In connection with the critical situation on the Mediterranean, the issue of migration was also spoken about. In Hanso’s opinion, the countries in northern Europe should try to understand the problems of the Mediterranean countries and help solve them, and then we can expect to be understood in the issues that concern us, especially in the sphere of security.

The meetings of the chairmen of the foreign affairs committees of the Nordic Countries and Baltic States are held regularly twice a year. The last meeting took place last autumn in Trakai, Lithuania. This time, Norway is the presiding country and invited the guests to Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. The next meeting will be hosted by the Swedish parliament in this autumn.

Photos of the meeting.

Riigikogu Press Service
Epp-Mare Kukemelk
Phone: +372 631 6356; +372 51 53 903
[email protected]